This point was recently illustrated in a case decided by the Appeals Courts. In Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Eldridge, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 81-360-10), the trial judge had ruled that an insurance company had a duty to defend its policyholders who had been sued for injuries caused by their dogs. But the Appeals Court overruled the trial judge, finding that the trial judge erred because the policyholders did not inform the insurance company that they owned dogs when they applied for homeowner’s insurance coverage.
Vermont Mutual Insurance company claimed that there was a material misrepresentation when the homeowners applied for insurance. The question on the application related to keeping animals or exotic pets to which the homeowners answered no. The trial just said the question was worded in a misleading fashion. The Appeals Court disagreed.
The Appeals Court went on to find that the misrepresentation was material. Thus, in the end, the homeowner’s were left without coverage for the dog bite incident. So, if you have dogs and you own a home, tell your insurance company. And if you are bitten by a dog, call the Law Office of Neil Burns.